Overview of patient dosimetry in diagnostic radiology in the USA for the past 50 years

Med Phys. 2008 Dec;35(12):5713-28. doi: 10.1118/1.3013604.


This review covers the role of medical physics in addressing issues directly related to patient dosimetry in radiography, fluoroscopy, mammography, and CT. The sections on radiography and fluoroscopy radiation doses review the changes that have occurred during the last 50 to 60 years. A number of technological improvements have contributed to both a significant reduction in patient and staff radiation doses and improvements to the image quality during this period of time. There has been a transition from film-screen radiography with hand dip film processing to electronic digital imaging utilizing CR and DR. Similarly, fluoroscopy has progressed by directly viewing image intensifiers in darkened rooms to modern flat panel image receptor systems utilizing pulsed radiation, automated variable filtration, and digitally processed images. Mammography is one of the most highly optimized imaging procedures performed, because it is a repetitive screening procedure that results in annual radiation exposure. Mammography is also the only imaging procedure in the United States in which the radiation dose is regulated by the federal government. Consequently, many medical physicists have studied the dosimetry associated with screen-film and digital mammography. In this review, a brief history of mammography dose assessment by medical physicists is discussed. CT was introduced into clinical practice in the early 1970s, and has grown into one of the most important modalities available for diagnostic imaging. CT dose quantities and measurement techniques are described, and values of radiation dose for different types of scanner are presented. Organ and effective doses to adult patients are surveyed from the earliest single slice scanners, to the latest versions that include up to two x-ray tubes and can incorporate as many as 256 detector channels. An overview is provided of doses received by pediatric patients undergoing CT examinations, as well as methods, and results, of studies performed to assess the radiation absorbed by the conceptus of pregnant patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Fluoroscopy / methods
  • Humans
  • Mammography / methods
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement / methods
  • Radiography / methods
  • Radiology / methods*
  • Radiometry / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • United States
  • X-Rays